Dev Log #001: Foam board electronics unit

Today we continued work from yesterday and completed the foam board electronics unit. This contains all the electronics that go in to a Bowie robot. They are on a foam core board to make it an easier test platform, and something we can quickly test with instead of opening up a robot. After this was finished, we proceeded to run some test code. The tests did not work because the Xbees were not communicating. None of the LEDs for the Xbee were lighting up on the brain board. To debug if this was a hardware issue, we could not see the port when plugging them in to an adapter board into the computer. A workaround was to install the FTDI driver, restart computer, then run XCTU. We did finally see that the Xbees exchanged a NI (node identifier) packet. Voltage on the brain board was checked on the Xbee and it seemed fine. Further debugging will be necessary, further tweaking of the code will be necessary. This was never encountered before, and with the electronics been left out in the open, we cannot rule out ESD damage for sure. Aside from this it appears all dc motors, servos, and super bright LEDs are functional.

Collab Log #001: Master’s engineering design

Collab Log #001: Master’s engineering design

For University of Ottawa’s Engineering Design course GNG5140, as a client we were paired with a group to work on something for Robot Missions. Today we had our first informational meeting — Meet the team!

Here is some info about it from the Winter 2020 client package:

GNG5140 is an open ended, hands-on engineering design course that provides students with fundamentals and advanced concepts of the engineering design process from client empathy to prototyping and testing. Students work directly with clients to solve a real societal need. There is a strong component of teamwork and lifelong learning.

Students taking this course are most likely in MEng (Master’s of Engineering). The students work in teams of 4-6 and are from all engineering departments.

At the end of the semester the students should have produced a final prototype with a user manual. The final prototypes from the successful groups will be available to the client to test with, keep for use, etc. The other prototypes will be disassembled to recycle parts from them.

We’ll be meeting about 4 times over the course of the semester, a total time commitment of about 10 hours. It all culminates in Design Day, where the students will then exhibit their work!

We’ve collaborated with engineering design classes in the past, and it was a blast. No doubt that this one will also be fun too. Can’t wait to see what the team will make, and will post updates about it here.

Kit Log #040: Brain kit instructions generated and LIVE!

Kit Log #040: Brain kit instructions generated and LIVE!

By coincidence, was reminded that the brain kit instructions need updating. This was the first kit that we worked on and realised that we are definitely going to need to write a script to help automate some of this. Their google sheet needed a few tweaks to have it compliant with the python script to generate the html of the instruction pages. Today, these tweaks were made, and the generator ran smoothly. The brain kit instruction pages are now updated. Check it out here: bowie brain kit and press the big green GO button.

As mentioned in the previous kit log, the next kit log will be about some of the other todo items like organising the bill of materials for a few of the kits.

Kit Log #039: Wheel kit and operator interface instructions are LIVE!

Kit Log #039: Wheel kit and operator interface instructions are LIVE!

Huzzah! The other two kits join the party. Check out the steps here: operator interface and wheel kit. Press the big green button on those pages that says GO.

Wow, that was sure a lot of work to reach this point. This is exciting though, because now we — everyone — can see some of the steps to make their own Bowie. It’s getting closer, a tiny bit closer, to our vision of having a repository of environmental tools add-ons for Bowie, and having many people all around the world contributing to it, and running their own Field Tests. Maybe this is getting a little ahead of ourselves, since there’s still plenty more work to do. But at least we’re a lot closer than 38 kit logs ago!

Now, all the 5 kits are at step 8. Here’s the list again since it was a while ago since this was posted:

Steps in the documentation process:
1) Lists of the components for bill of materials and packing list
2) Photos of step-by-step assembly process
3) Photo editing of the photos
4) Written description of each step
5) Editing review
6) Formatting for website
7) Publish it
8) Making sure files and code are up and work
9) Add the kits to our online store
10) Ship it

Getting the files and code organised and posted is now the current step. There are also additional notes, for example, for some of the kits, they need their pricing finalised in the bill of materials.

Once all of these are done, or perhaps before, are the assembly instructions for the 3D printed pieces.

The work continues!

Kit Log #038: Script DONE! Power pack and super brights are LIVE!

Kit Log #038: Script DONE! Power pack and super brights are LIVE!

Today’s kit log is pretty exciting. We finally get to see the results of all the work for two of the kits: power pack and super bright lights. Check out the instruction pages! super brights, power pack and press the big green go button

Today we wrote and finished the python script that takes in the steps and parts csv, then outputs a series of html pages. The development process was fine, didn’t get caught on anything real big. Had some off by one bugs, but it wasn’t anything difficult.

There was one mistake we encountered. That is, the images that are on google sheets are input into a cell as a formula. For example, it is =IMAGE(url). When exporting to csv, google sheets does not include this. Unfortunately since we have re-arranged some of the order of the images and deleted some, there isn’t really a way to script or automate copying the image name into another cell. So this has to be done by hand for every step. Shucks. It’s not the end of the world, it is fixable, just a bit of a delay. It was funny when finding this bug, because it was “wonder if this array actually contains anything? let’s print it” and it displayed a whole bunch of nothing in a list.

Either way, we were able to fix two of the instructions today, and prepare the pages on wordpress, and copy and paste the output html from the python script into the pages.

The next kit log will continue on this progress, as there is the operator interface and wheel kit instructions to complete.